First Close Encounter with a Rattlesnake and Canyon Lake

Friday morning Cori and Greg headed out bright and early, and since we didn’t have any plans until lunch Lee decided to empty some of the grey tank into our blue boy so he could do a little laundry and still have a full gray tank to flush when we leave on Sunday. Because it sits up in the bed of the truck, Lee pumps the grey water through a macerator pump and into the tank and then drives it to the dump station.  He had just finished filling it and was walking to the truck to drive it down when he saw a 5 foot rattlesnake between the grassy area and the driver’s door.  Thankfully he was being aware. I’ll be honest, I have been paying close attention when we are out on the paths, but around the campsite I have been less than vigilant.

The diamond pattern on the back shows it is a diamondback. I didn’t even notice until Lee pointed it out. Too busy looking at the head where the fangs are.


They really blend in


I appreciate they serve an important purpose in the ecosystem, but Yikes!!

I texted Deb and she came over and we all tried to shoo it away from the truck. Unfortunately the snake was having none of it, and after throwing pebbles towards it to encourage to move along, and even a couple of larger items what worked was when I turned the generator on.  They don’t like vibration and that worked, although it took it’s sweet time.  We heard later from a local that if you have a hose handy spraying them with water works very well, so that’s good to know, but it wasn’t easy using what we had at hand.  And that wasn’t all! When Lee returned, there was another much larger snake under the rig, but we don’t think it was a rattler. It meandered around for a few minutes under the rig and then worked it’s way over to the picnic table and under a nearby bush. I was feeling decidedly uneasy.

My concern is that my eyesight isn’t that good, and now I feel I need to walk everywhere looking at the ground all the time.  For the record, this one never rattled once despite the fact that we were annoying it, so you can’t really rely on that.  For the next couple of days I was obsessively looking under everything, and really for me that’s not my favorite way to live.  In all fairness this was our first snake encounter of any kind in 2-1/2 years on the road and they really don’t come out when the weather is cooler, but it definitely is part of desert living, and you should know it’s always a possibility.

The next morning we had bunnies and I was obviously way happier about that

After our snake encounter we left to meet Chloe and Dale for lunch.  Chloe reads the blog, grew up in the area, and reached out to see if we wanted to meet up.  We had met briefly in Quartzsite and they know many people we know, but Lee had never met them.  I asked for a reasonably priced local restaurant and they recommended the Iowa Cafe which serves breakfast and lunch.  I loved the food there.  Large portions, reasonably priced, and attentive service.  We had a great conversation with Chloe and Dale and they were a font of information about the area.  Since we are definitely coming back here we were excited to add some “local” places to our list and we also really enjoyed learning about them.  Dale was a real live cowboy for awhile (which piques Lee’s interest) and Chloe was a steamboat captain for awhile.  Very interesting people, and really glad we got to meet them.  Plus she made Lee a lemon pie with real lemons from her garden and it was a big hit at dinner that night.

Dale, me, and Chloe (I was trying to get Dale to smile for the picture and he was humoring me!)

Lemon pie!

That night Steve, Deb, Kat, Bert, and Lee and I all ate together, but everyone just brought the leftovers from their fridge.  This is a fun way to eat, and everyone feeds each other, so I gave Steve leftover hot dogs, Bert fed Deb chicken legs, and Lee ate leftover steak.  Meals like that always manage to come together and are a great way of cleaning out the fridge.  We had a fire and talked some more and then called it a night because Saturday morning we were going kayaking with Deb and Steve at Canyon Lake.  We have an inflatable Sea Eagle Fast Track kayak which is great, but for one reason or another we barely get to use.  Deb and Steve use their kayak pretty frequently and wanted to show us a special spot they found.  We got up early and left around 9:15am after saying goodbye to Kat and Bert.  They had an all day family event and we weren’t sure we would see them before we left.  So glad we got to hang out though, and know them better, and they may be heading to Oregon this summer, so hopefully we will get to see them there also.  Either way, once you connect with people it’s easier than you would think to meet up with them in your travels so I know we will see them down the road.

Before heading to the lake we did have to stop and get a day pass.  Most gas stations sell them and they are $8 per vehicle, so we grabbed a pass and headed out. The drive itself to the lake was absolutely beautiful.  The road was very curvy and went through Tonto National Forest.  We stopped and took several pictures  at scenic vistas and the views were great.

The pointed rock in the back is Weaver’s Needle. Deb said the view is much better from the other side, so she’s already planned a hike for us to take next time we are here 🙂

Extra bonus of being with friends is we can get pictures of the two of us. Deb took this one

Someone buried their dog here. Deb and I were very touched by that.

I loved, loved this formation. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

We arrived pretty early at the lake and it was starting to fill up.  It’s actually three lakes with three dams and connecting waterways and supports larger boats and a marina.  We went to the very end and put our kayaks in along the edge.  Since there is some chop on the lake from the bigger boats we stayed near the edge and went around the corner , under the bridge, and into a narrow waterway.  Wow!!  Deb and Steve find the coolest places, and although the section isn’t very long, paddling with the cliff walls on either side was amazing.  We went to the end and then turned around and had some lunch in the boats (that requires some coordination) and then headed back out. Stunning, and unfortunately the pictures simply don’t do it justice.  I am a much better photographer on dry land lol.

Bridge we kayaked under to get to the canyon

Steve, Hurley, and Deb

Good fishing at the entrance

The entrance was around the smaller rock in the front

There were only a couple other kayaks we met along the way, it was very quiet and peaceful



I loved this rock.!

We reached the end and you could hike from there, but we didn’t have the shoes for it so we turned around and headed back out

Going back out was even prettier than coming in

Love how the plants grow on the rock walls

We ate our lunch tucked back in here

Since it was a shorter paddle than Deb remembered and Lee really wanted to see the other side of the lake we decided to try and make our way across.  We stayed along the edge on the way out and looked into a few inlets and even got to see one of the dams and a cute baby duck.  When we made it to the main waterway for the boats, I was ready to call it quits and looked up and saw a mountain sheep high up on the  cliff.  Got some decent shots with the long lens despite the water being choppy, but then I was ready to go back.  We all decided to try to go straight across the lake and we made it fine, but my shoulders are pretty sore today.

Overview of the lake.  Black arrow to the right is where we started.  We went around the edge in the front of the picture to the second arrow on the left where we saw the sheep.  Then we went straight across to get back.  I was pretty proud of Lee and I since we aren’t experienced kayakers and it took less time than I would have thought to complete all of that.

The speed boats were courteous but there was unavoidable chop

Loved, loved the bright green of the lichen on the rocks

One of the three dams

Around the bend to the left of Deb and Steve’s kayak is the main waterway

Saw the sheep on the top of a rock this high.  See Deb and Steve kayak at the bottom for scale.



Not bad considering the bounce. Hard to keep the camera steady

After kayaking we headed back and got ready for Lee’s step sister Lisa, and her husband Dave.  They live in Gilbert and she reached out and wanted to come see the rig.  They aren’t RVers, so we gave them the nickel tour, and then I made Boursin Chicken for dinner.  I like making real dinners when non-rvers come to visit so they can see it isn’t all hamburgers and hot dogs and the chicken is simple but still a little fancy.  We even used regular plates and Lee busted out a table cloth so we were super fancy!!

Lee getting ready

Lisa and Dave talking to Deb

From left: Dave, Steve, Deb, and Lisa (Check out Lisa and Deb.  Seriously I need to start hanging out around less attractive people I am starting to get a complex :P)

Dave, Lisa, me, and Lee

We got to know Dave and they had lots of questions about the lifestyle which was really fun to talk about.  The six of us had a nice dinner and a campfire and then Lisa presented a HUGE apple pie.

Seriously monster pie with my hand for scale.

OK, let’s talk about the pie a little.  It’s so sweet that everyone gives Lee pie, and he is incredibly grateful, but I do want to go on record here that the man is definitely not suffering in the dessert department, despite his post/Facebook comments to the contrary.  So please know that pie is always appreciated, but it’s not like he needs the pie or his life won’t be complete. (Don’t pay any attention to her, she’s getting older and starting to get a little loopy. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. There is no such thing as too much pie, or too many pies, and it brings such joy to our friends and relatives to give me pie, who am I to stand in the way of making the world a better place? It might be the best thing that happens to them all day, what kind of person would take that away from someone? She’s really mean. – Lee)

Anyway, we had a lovely talk and I really enjoyed getting to know Lisa better, and we both were really glad to meet Dave. She is a beautiful person inside and out, and since they live so close to one of our new favorite places I am excited about seeing more of her and her family and in the future.  Next up Cottonwood, Sedona, and Flagstaff.  We are packing a lot in during our time off, but it’s great because I don’t feel pressured or rushed in anyway.  Really like traveling like this with short hops to the next destination.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer. 

First Time at Usery Mountain Regional Park

I am pretty sure that we had our shortest travel day ever as we only had to drive 13 miles from Lost Dutchman State Park to Usery Mountain Regional Park.  Even though they cost the same and the basic terrain is the same, the two parks have a very different vibe.  Lost Dutchman has better views and it’s extremely clean and orderly, but Usery has a more natural landscape, the sites are bigger and more spaced out, and the vibe is much more relaxed.  Because there were more openings at Usery we were able to get campsites all in a row and despite different departure times we all rolled in around the same time.  The park is water and electric only, so we visited the dump station right when we arrived and met a very nice couple from Connecticut who had just retired and purchased their first ever small travel trailer.  The husband was dumping for the first time and since he was only using what the dealer gave him in the way of hose, seemed at a bit of a loss.  The etiquette is to never offer assistance unless it’s requested, but when the gentleman was honest about how he wasn’t sure what to do Lee spent some time walking him through it.  Lots of people helped us when we first started out, so we always like to pay it forward, but again, only if someone asks.

After we got them squared away we emptied our own tanks, and then headed to our site, and it was a beauty.  The angle was a bit odd, so it took a few tries for Lee to put the rig right where he wanted it, but once we were settled I was really happy with the surroundings.  Deb did walk over and say they saw a pretty big snake when they pulled in to their site, so I was very careful about where I walked during setup.  In the entire time we’ve been on the road I have never seen a snake of any kind in the wild, which is fine with me because while I appreciate their purpose, I’m not a huge fan.

Our site, taken from the very back end. In the next picture you see can the picnic table in the distance, that should give you an idea how roomy these sites are.

Our rig

Deb and Steve on one side

Cori and Greg on the other

Cori made ribs for everyone for dinner in the Instant Pot and I paid close attention to how she did it.  She uses hers all the time with great success, and although I like mine I am not nearly as advanced as she is.  Once the ribs were finished, Greg crisped them up on the grill and added the sauce and everyone loved them.  They were fall off the bone tender and really flavorful.  I am definitely adding the recipe to my next cookbook, once I try it myself to make sure I can duplicate her efforts.  She also made Macaroni and cheese in the Instant Pot and cole slaw, and Deb made strawberry shortcake!!  Then we all settled in for a nice fire and enjoyed the night.  Unfortunately, one of those fast desert storms came up with wind, lightning, and rain and we all had to go inside, but it was a great way to break in a new campground since none of us had been here before.

Deb added lemon flavored olive oil which made this desert extra yummy

The next morning I got up pretty early (Lee and I are still trying to get readjusted back to our pre-gate guarding sleep schedule) and decided to take a walk and get some pictures.  Right across from Deb’s campsite is a 1/2 mile nature trail, which has signs showing the different plants and is a paved path.  You can walk through the desert here, but I was nervous about it so felt much better staying on the path.  I saw lots of birds, several chipmunks (couldn’t get a pic) and enjoyed the flowers in bloom.  There isn’t as much color here as there was in Lost Dutchman, but I actually saw more animals on the walk.

This beautiful house is on a hill behind the campground. Nice pad. (Update: We learned later this is Stevie Nicks’ house)

People sometimes have the misconception that the desert is barren, and certainly some desert we have seen is, but in the area near Tuscon and Phoenix it is full of stuff and has it’s own beauty. It is also teeming with wildlife.  We have seen doves, quail, roadrunners, and hawks along with lizards and chipmunks.  Most everything is a brown or grey color to blend in so you have to look harder, but it’s all there.  I came back from the walk and got our laundry together because Cori, Deb, and I all went to a local laundromat.  We didn’t absolutely need to go, but it’s best to stay on top of it when you are on partial hookups plus it was a chance to hang out with the girls. On the way I saw my very first snake. Thankfully I was in the truck and it was stretched out on the black top covering about half the road but on the other side from where I was driving.  I slowed down to get a look, and it had the coloring of a rattlesnake, but to be honest I am not totally sure if that’s what it was.  It wasn’t that scary since I was sitting in my big truck, and I wish I would have taken my camera with me.  I swear that happens every time I leave it behind.

After that bit of exictement I followed Cori and Deb to the laundromat and unfortunately for me it was not the greatest.  I must be spoiled by the excellent one in Dilley, TX, but this one was crowded, had no restroom, and very limited seating.  But as Cori said, it served it’s purpose, I was just happy to get back to the peaceful campground.  Plus Kat and Bert were coming in today and I wanted to greet them.  We met Kat and Bert at the 2016 RV-Dreams rally and liked them right away.  We met tons of great people at that rally, but they are the first to be in the same area we are.  Bert reads the blog and reached out when she saw our paths would cross, and she ended up booking a spot in the same campground. I wanted to make them dinner since it was their travel day, and we all met for happy hour and I made chimichangas.  Cooking for 8 can be a little challenging with limited kitchen space, but Deb loaned me her stove and with some careful coordination we made it work.  Deb made beans and Cori made rice so we had a full meal which I was pretty happy with.

From left: Kat, Bert, Steve, Lee, a mountain top, Cori, Greg, Deb, and me, and a cactus.

My pretty chimis and they tasted good too.  I also served Kelly’s Queso dip as an appetizer. Made a double batch, Kelly, and it was almost all gone at the end.

After dinner we had a campfire and stayed up until 10pm telling stories and exchanging experiences.  It was really nice getting to know them better, and they were very patient listening to our stories. The next morning we all wanted to go kayaking, but the wind was too strong, so six of us went to the Superstitioun Mountain museum and Goldfield, and old gold mine town.  Both were free and a little touristy, but we did have some opportunity for some great pics. (The gift shop and outside area of the museum was free, but the interior museum required admission. – Lee) 

The museum

Some movies were shot here and I liked the cowboy boot prints

Who knew there were this many kinds of rattlesnakes??? Yikes!!

Giant stamping machine used in the 1800s to pulverize ore. It was moved here and restored, and they operate it on weekends for visitors.

Yes I have to always sit on the thing and take the pic!

Everyone’s favorite was this giant, outdoor train with tons of detail really neat

This little guy was my favorite. The sign was pointing to the Lost Dutchman Mine

(I took lots and lots of pictures of the model railroad, because I think they’re incredibly cool. Tracy says it’s not a good idea to put too many pictures in one post. I don’t work and play well with others. If you don’t like super awesome pictures of model railroads, go ahead and scroll past the next 20 pictures. But if you’re one of the cool kids, and also like pie, welcome to the club. Enjoy. – Lee) 


I wasn’t supposed to put this one in because it’s the same one she put in above, but hers didn’t include the bear. 





















OK, back to the regular post.

The gold mine was right down the road mainly shops, but had a neat vibe. We went straight to lunch at this Saloon

Hats and boots on the ceiling

Our waitress was the only one wearing a costume.

Service was slow, portions were small, and on the pricey side, but the company was awesome!!

We went straight from the restaurant to a geocache hotel

Lee and Cori figuring it out

It was heavy!

The black and white tube was a huge log you could write on

The “sheet” to sign

Steve talking Cori and Lee through how to handle trackables

Cool cowboy church

I really liked the bordello

This was by far the best shop. All handmade.

Touristy, but a neat place to stop

Had to take some black and white

After we ate and shopped we came back and dropped off our extra books in the little free book area of the campground and then Kat and Bert treated us to Spaghetti Bolognese and bruschetta with homemade flatbread.  So, so good, and Steve broke out some nice red wine he brought from their personal collection in California.  Another nice campfire and then off to bed.  Tomorrow is the Boyd Thompson Arboretum.

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.